Scheme prosecutions have jumped nine-fold since the introduction of the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority's fast-track system in the UK.
The process, which was introduced in April 2000, involves sending a statement to offending pension schemes which are in breach of the Pensions Act 1995 giving them 14 days to contest the charges.
OPRA prosecuted 458 pensions schemes between April 2000 and March 2001 compared with 51 over the same time last year.
The news follows OPRA’s policy shift announced last week which sees it naming and shaming schemes and trustees from next month for these offences.
OPRA communications manager Nick Edmans said: “When the Pension Act came into force in 1997 we were aware that there was massive non-compliance across the industry, so we did not bring so many prosecutions.
“Now our view is that trustees are generally aware of what they are supposed to be doing and the offences now are down to either sloppiness, incompetence or wilful breaches of the law.”
The majority of scheme prosecutions, 205, were for the late filing of accounts, 200 prosecutions were made for late payment of contributions, 18 prosecutions for failure to appoint an auditor, nine for not having an internal dispute resolution policy in place, eight were for minimum funding requirement breaches and three were for the failure to appoint an actuary.
Edmans said the system now meant that OPRA’s board of directors could get though dozens of cases in a single afternoon.
Fines for breaches vary from £50 to £2000 on average. Schemes who fail to pay their fines will be pursued through debt collectors appointed by OPRA.
By David Rowley
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